Slow Reaction to Change

It’s probably a circumstance that a practitioner of Freudian psychology would quickly identify as a trait of a super-healthy ego, but I would argue – a trait of my hard-headedness – that ANYONE’s ears would perk up hearing their name. The radio was tuned in, but my attention wasn’t UNTIL I heard Teresa, or so I thought I heard. Instantly my attention focused on the discussion to see who made the news who shares my name. But it wasn’t a who. It was a phenomenon. (I know, Freud, I know, t that sounds quite egotistical, but I am well aware that word could never describe me little ol’ me).

The word I heard was hysteresis. Say Teresa with a ‘hiss’ in front of it and ‘sis’ in place of the ‘uh’ sound made by the ‘a’ at the end, and you have it! It is a physics word.( My grade school introduction to physics didn’t include it on the vocabulary list. My teacher was stuck on levers – period). The radio host was not talking about physics at all. His program was about the economy!

It’s tough to listen when your mind chases rabbits. I had to find a definition. Found one, but that didn’t help.I had to find a definition of the definition. Here is my version. Hysteresis refers to the catching up that is needed when an occurrence causes a change in direction. Imagine a troublemaker deciding to switch the direction of a conveyor belt in a chocolate factory, bypassing stop. There would be a slowing down as gears got the message, then a pileup of chocolates, with spillage along with lots of noise, as gears came to a halt before going the other way.

I think hysteresis aptly describes more aspects of our pandemic period than just the economy. Change might be good, but we don’t like it, especially without warning. Sometimes we have to be convinced. Back in March when we shifted gears in every aspect of daily life, there was lots of noise as gears came to a halt before changing direction. And changes were global, not just local or national. Problems galore have piled up. When we decide to change directions again – and in many instances it won’t simply be back to the former directions but in completely different ones, I am preparing for a gradual return to an altered norm.

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Happy New Year 2021

The year 2020 is finally at end

With none of us feeling sorrow.

We’ve many fears to settle, lives and hearts to mend,

Hope for a brighter tomorrow.

* * * * *

We welcomed the decade with pomp and circumstance,

Expecting fun and health and wealth,

Hailing a past century with costumes and dance,

Pandemic approaching with stealth.

* * * * *

Ripley County was grateful for post-flood progress –

Roads, bridges, business rebounded –

“Pandemic proportions” aptly described our mess.

Optimistic plans abounded.

* * * * *

The luck of the Irish didn’t quite protect us,

After St. Patrick’s Day in March

Life became unpredictable and horrendous.

By COVID-19 we were starched.

* * * * *

We quarantined in mystery and confusion,

Worried and masked and sanitized.

Our shortages a convoluted allusion?

Alone, who could be energized?

* * * * *

Sickness and death, countless affected by COVID.

2021? New, improved

To ease sad memories haunting and myriad.

New perspectives, vaccines approved,

* * * * *

Dedicated local leaders, we say ‘Thank you!”

To essential workers – the same!

With hope we look forward to a year that’s brand new,

2020’s out of the game!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021

The year 2020 is finally at end

With none of us feeling sorrow.

We’ve many fears to settle, lives and hearts to mend,

Hope for a brighter tomorrow.

* * * * *

We welcomed the decade with pomp and circumstance,

Expecting fun and health and wealth,

Hailing a past century with costumes and dance,

Pandemic approaching with stealth.

* * * * *

Ripley County was grateful for post-flood progress –

Roads, bridges, business rebounded –

“Pandemic proportions” aptly described our mess.

Optimistic plans abounded.

* * * * *

The luck of the Irish didn’t quite protect us,

After St. Patrick’s Day in March

Life became unpredictable and horrendous.

By COVID-19 we were starched.

* * * * *

We quarantined in mystery and confusion,

Worried and masked and sanitized.

Our shortages a convoluted allusion?

Alone, who could be energized?

* * * * *

Sickness and death, countless affected by COVID.

2021? New, improved

To ease sad memories haunting and myriad.

New perspectives, vaccines approved,

* * * * *

Dedicated local leaders, we say ‘Thank you!”

To essential workers – the same!

With hope we look forward to a year that’s brand new,

2020’s out of the game!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Self on the Shelf

I can do it. I can be like Elf on the Shelf. I can be Self on the Shelf.

I can BE STILL. (I first typed ‘Sit Still’ but, boy-o-boy! Did that conjure up some memories! Somehow Dad trying to ensure I did meant we created a much bigger ruckus than had I been allowed to wiggle, but I digress). We all need quiet time to relax, ponder, observe, to cue in to others’ joys and needs as well as our own. We might be more inclined to consider quiet time this Christmas 2020 with pandemic restrictions ‘helping’ us reduce the harrowing hustle and bustle that sometimes masks the reason for this season in ‘normal’ circumstances. Elf is observant.

I can CREATE. (That motivates me more than ‘Make Do’ does, which focuses on lack rather than gratitude). Integrate favorite traditions in new ways. Move the tree. Have a second one. Is it still a thing to hang one upside down? Add candlelight. Carol from room to room or share with loved ones your voices on facebook live or audio texts. Send store-bought or homemade cards the ‘old-fashioned’ way; share personalized messages in each. Use precious ornaments, cards and mementos to decorate in alternative styles. Let the kids design placemats or holiday pictures for the fridge. Find ways for all to help. Just create less havoc than Elf.

I can SHARE. (Technically the Elf is doing that when he ‘Tattles’ to Santa, right)? We can share the reason we celebrate this holy time along with the ways we celebrate. We can share our ears and our time, giving others missing friends and loved ones the opportunity to share their traditions and memories. Share cookies and stories, smiles and recipes. Share the story from the second chapter of Luke. Share joy. Remember, the Elf fits into each family in different ways, but he always shares fun.

I can LOVE. It transcends the woes of this coronavirus, helps us celebrate through our sorrows, gives us hope and promise. It’s a verb, too. Requires action – both giving and receiving. I wish you love and joy this season no matter how you celebrate it. Merry Christmas!

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Anticipating the End of 2020

I’m eager to rip the December 2020 page off the calendar. I could simply toss what’s left of it, but no way. I’m going to make a big deal of seeing the old year out as the new one enters. It needs a big yank with a stern grip, then a tight wadding into a ball to toss twenty times into the trash can, with some dunks and slams thrown in for effect. The unveiling of the 2021 version will be with much reverence, pomp and circumstance, even if from my own living room with only the computer screen for company to comply with COVID-19 suggestions.

That is a month away, however, so I will ‘hold my horses’ for now. In the meantime, I am obsessing about my temperature, weight gain and availabiity of antibacterial wipes and toilet paper in pandemic dips and turns more dizzying than those on 160W. 

Another obsession is trying to keep up with the latest in mind-boggling brain research – the research printed for us non-medical, non-scientific folks. Memory information catches my gaze first as I skim the tables of contents in these printed publications. My mother lost her memory many years before she took her last breath. Will I? It isn’t a given. Children have vivid visual memories before they have words, and when they get words, memories morph. Details can be lost, sometimes reappearing in varying versions based on suggestions and stories from others. My siblings and I have discussed memories of the same house/neighborhood/events that differ significantly. Who’s to say which of us is wrong with no written or oral record to verify? Some begin to lose bits of episodic memory as early as their 20’s. This doesn’t begin to happen for others till the ripe ‘young’ decade of their 60’s.

As much as we might want to forget what we are living through, we can’t just yet. Our children and grandchildren will have questions about 2020. Even if they lived through it, memories will vary based on ages and emotions. 

To get a valid representation for future reference, consider keeping a journal. I am considering creating a bullet journal with my own set of emojis, dots and dashes. If you share a roof with young children, get them to draw pictures for you, then write down the stories they share about them. Chidren about 8 or 9 may want to write their own contributions to a family pandemic scrapbook or box. Teens may cooperate if you can print their texts or tweets. Include headlines/articles from the Prospect-News. What a treasure for THEIR children and grandchildren! 

I look forward to starting another collection of memories for post-pandemic times! I will be masking up and buckling down to spread holiday cheer in new ways to try to speed up the arrival of those times. Can hardly wait to pack masks away, to rip up tape lines on retail floors and to hug my family and friends! Help me hold my horses long enough!

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Sunsets

Each day I anticipate sunsets, the reasons surprising and varied. How will the clouds mix with the colors? What is the color that is not orange or yellow or pink but glows with traces of each? How do I miss the transformation from one to the other? Some evenings the subtle change from sunset to twilight to dusk calms and comforts, erasing worries and fears, assuring me God hears my heart’s prayers when my mind can’t find words. Other times I race the sunset to another clearing, to see the glory I might miss if I don’t hurry. I never lose. Magnificent WOW moments catch me off guard, halting my breath for a moment of awe…

…and gratitude – for another day – with loved ones, friends, purpose.

Sunrises are just as appreciated but I confess I don’t rise early for bus routes and lesson preparations these days, so I don’t marvel at a sunrise without an appointment. There was a time in this retirement phase when I didn’t think my metabolism would adjust to any schedule but a school-related one. My being reacted to an unseen clock and an unheard bell for a long while.

School routines have been among the constants that frame our lives. School starts in August and ends in May, weekends vary from weekdays, kids learn to read and write as they inspire their teachers, teams win and lose, hearts and voices create, sing, and play between 8 am and 3 pm. Bonds strengthen, some for life.

Change, too, is good for the brain and the soul, but we have endured so much change these days without clear hows and whys. Our school district is scrambling to create a safe, routine environment for the kids, teachers, support personnel, board members and parents. Though it might look different and require tweaking along the way, our community yearns for its return and the security it reflects.

Be patient with those tackling innumerable and invisible challenges because they care for our community. They could use our prayers, encouragement and gratitude.

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A Voting Legacy

It was horrific – the aftermath of my grandfather hitting Logan Creek bridge just seconds after leaving the driveway. My grandmother was with him. To the world they were Robert and Cecilia Pearson, but to me and the rest of the grandchildren – Momo and Popo.

Though they were early risers, I imagine they arose even earlier that day, to have breakfast and get dressed up a bit, not Sunday-go-to-meetin’ nice, but better than their everyday wear. After all, they were headed to town. No doubt ready before time to leave, Popo would have sat in his chair flipping through a paper he had already read and Momo might have picked up her crochet hook to add another row of stitches.

Then it was time. Popo may have put on a hat as Momo picked up her purse. Out the door they proudly went to get into their blue 1963 Chevrolet Biscayne. I know how they felt, on a mission driving themselves in their own car. The longer I live the more I cherish that aspect of my independence.

It was Popo’s last time to have that experience. The highway patrol took his keys and gave them to my dad. It isn’t clear exactly what occurred, but if you know the bridge on 160E-8 you know it is narrow and in a curve. A vehicle was approaching from the west as Popo approached from the east. He steered a bit to the right to clear the center line. Maybe he intended to wait until the oncoming vehicle passed. Instead he hit the bridge at a greater speed than expected, perhaps from inadvertntly hitting the gas instead of the brake. My grandmother had placed both hands on the dash to brace herself. The impact broke her arms. For weeks and weeks – night and day – she endured both outstretched in casts attached to her waist.

Their intended mission that day? To vote. Each time I do that, I sense their legacy and feel a responsibility to carry it on. I will get up early, too, in hopes of avoiding a long line. I will don a mask and keep my distance. In comparison, nothing worth complaining about. The Prospect-News published the ballot in the July 22nd issue. It is in this issue as well. I have done my research. I am ready to vote. Are you? Will you?

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Sizzling Summers

My folks had a fan and they knew how to use it. Many times Dad put the box fan in a window, lowered the sill to brace it, raised or lowered other windows to fist width, and instantly cooled the atmosphere within our hot, sticky walls. It was magic that I didn’t totally figure out till I had my own hot, sticky rooms to cool, realizing there was science behind his magic. Factors considered included time of day, room being used and for what, where the shade was and the decision to pull air in or blow it out. He always seemed to know the particulars without much fuss.

Mom made magic, too, with that box fan. Sultry city summers didn’t keep us kids from running to the park or the neighbors for games of tag or hide-and-seek or biking through heat waves pulsating over concrete sidewalks. We could get hot, stinky and cranky by mid-afternoon. After quick baths we welcomed the cool comfort of naps in our underwear on top of our bedspreads, pulled curtains rippling from the fan sitting on the floor or on a chair, neverminding the rattles that didn’t completely drown out the low tunes from the radio.

Country summer days are just as sultry. After all, Missouri is known for sizzling temps. These days I might do nothing more exerting than watering flowers and the remedy for my sweaty body and cranky mood still includes a fan. Taking a quick cool shower, donning an oversized tee and stretching out on a patchwork quilt in an air-conditioned house lacks the comfortable nostalgic vibe. Add the gentle breeze and hum from an old box fan stabilized on a braided rug, its rattling knobs quieted with folded paper, along with low tunes from 99.1 and nap time seems luxurious.

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

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An August Special – The Week That Was

August had a gem of a week last week! It was a week…

…with sunshine I didn’t scoot in a hurry to avoid.

…when my deodorant kept me dry.

…to open a few windows, turn on the attic fan and air out the house (and turn up the volume on the record player).

…to drive with windows down to air out cars and heads (with volume up on the radio).

…to watch cats, squirrels and birds. Dogs and chickens, too, if you are lucky enough to have them. Were I still on the farm, I would have watched the cows.

…to rock in the porch swing with an unopened book. I always have one handy but that week had days I enjoyed doing nothing.

…to enjoy spontaneous outdoor lunches.

…to chase down the ice cream truck in town and dream of one with rural routes.

…to think about drinking coffee. I’m a novice coffee drinker. Don’t want it on sultry days.

…to watch the river. That means going out of town unless I want to break the law, but that week it was worth the drive.

…to enjoy baking. I should have eaten less, shared more, but brownies are yummy.

…to listen – to the birds, crickets, katydids – and music and hearts.

…to exhale, to laugh, to hope.

Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects.” Norman Cousins

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Up in Smoke

Mowing was postponed. The grass was wet and the sky hinted it might get wetter momentarily. Time for a fire. Watching fire either empties my brain or evokes what only I consider profound thoughts.

Sitting in a comfy chair far enough away to escape the heat, with a cat making my lap his comfy seat, it didn’t take long for my brain to drain. 2020 has created quite a quagmire. Any time I can escape its conundrums and negativity, that’s a plus.

It was nice while it lasted. An errant thought, dragging a deadline like a big bass zigzagging fishing line, beckoned me to join it in a topic search. To refrain from dumping a hodge-podge of brainstorms too quickly into my head, I focused on the flames as they faded.

Soon all the fire’s fuel vanished, up in smoke. Not sad. Necessary. If an old sofa can’t be recycled – having fulfilled its duties to couch potatoes, growing kids and feisty pets in sickness and in health – obliteration is the answer.

Obliterated. Wish that described COVID-19 tomorrow. Maybe it will someday as it does smallpox.

What about obliterating 2020? It has way more wrong with it than the viral pandemic. It seems a dismal failure so far. If it went up in smoke as the sofa did, I would, too. I’m not ready for that.

2020 is bulldozing a way to fresh perspectives, new habits, expanded appreciations. Think like Fred Rogers: “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

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